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Username: ARTA
Date/Time: Sun, November 5, 2000 at 3:20 PM GMT
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Subject: ARTA Opposes IATA Proposal


The Association of Retail Travel Agents (ARTA) posts its complete and absolute opposition to the International Air Transport Association (IATA) proposal to administer the “.travel” Top Level Domain (TLD) name.

Our 4,500 independent travel retailers around the United States and Canada join the 3,000 members of the Association of Canadian Travel Agents (ACTA), the 1,000 members of the U.S. Travel Agent Registry (USTAR), and the 5,500 members of the Outside Sales Support Network
(OSSN) in their expressed opposition to the IATA proposal.

Simply put, there’s no question that IATA’s plans violate ICANN’s criteria for assessing TLD proposals – most notably, the long-term “proof of concept” goal for introducing TLDs, enhanced
competition for registration services, greater diversity in the domain name system, and (most important) the appropriate protection of the rights of others in connection with the operation of
the TLD.

Specifically, we oppose the IATA proposal on the following grounds:

1.   IATA does not represent a diverse cross-section of the global travel community.

IATA’s proposal belies its true legal structure.  IATA’s essential purpose is to represent the business interests of 275 airlines in 143 countries and territories around the world.  In practical terms, IATA functions as an airline cartel.

Despite IATA’s assurances to the contrary, the many other segments of the global travel community deeply interested in the “.travel” TLD – travel agents, airports, bus and motorcoach operators, hotels and resorts, bed-and-breakfast inns, campgrounds, cruise lines, car rental
companies, railroads, tour operators, sightseeing companies, tourist boards and destination marketing organizations, ferry and taxi operators, travel insurance providers, consumer travel advocates, travel guide publishers, and travel technology companies – have no legal standing or voice within IATA and, therefore, no legal guarantee of access to or impartiality in the administration of the TLD.

2.   IATA has already demonstrated its unwillingness to remain impartial in its administration of the TLD.

IATA promises in its proposal to establish an administration scheme, supplemented by an Advisory Committee and a Registrars Forum, to guarantee the impartial assignment and review of domain names under the TLD to applicants.

Before this current comment period closes, in fact, IATA has already proved its willingness to grant special privileges to selected travel industry players in the name of political expediency.  On 18 October, the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) issued a statement opposing IATA’s plans, saying “[i]t is completely inappropriate for an international cartel to control segments of the Internet, especially when the competitive interests of the members of the cartel
may be involved.”  This week, IATA announced a “compromise” in which ASTA removed its opposition to the plan in return for a seat on “the .travel Board” and automatic qualification for ASTA agents seeking a “.travel” name in the future.

Though IATA promises in its proposal to make the TLD available only to businesses that can meet “objective and transparent criteria which establish their legitimacy as reputable providers of travel-related products, services and information,” IATA has already cut this deal (and, perhaps, others not yet public) to grant wholesale automatic approvals for TLD requests in return for silence from its critics.

To ARTA, that heavy-handed practice demonstrates conclusively that IATA is not qualified to administer the TLD impartially.

3.   IATA represent a segment of the global travel community with an established history of market dominance, particularly in the electronic marketplace.

IATA is governed, and its coffers are funded, by airlines that have an extremely spotty record of anticompetitive behavior, alleged collusion, and outright antitrust law violations in the United
States, Canada, and the European Union, as well as other global jurisdictions.

IATA currently administers and enforces a global accreditation and settlement scheme that answers to no authority except IATA’s member carriers, and IATA has taken specific steps in recent years to block the introduction of competing accreditation and settlement schemes
controlled by non-airline interests.

In the 1990s, our association filed a formal legal complaint against IATA with the U.S. Department of Transportation to block IATA’s launch of a discount airfare Web site that threatened to violate U.S. antitrust laws.  IATA abandoned its plans in the face of growing
industry opposition.

IATA’s members effectively control the global computer reservation system (CRS) marketplace via their ownership interests in the major CRS companies – to the extent that the United States is currently reviewing its CRS regulations in an attempt to break this stranglehold and introduce much-needed competition in this electronic arena.

Based on the anticompetitive track record of IATA and its member airlines, should ICANN feel comfortable in entrusting the “.travel” TLD to their care?

We request respectfully that ICANN choose instead a future applicant for this TLD who can provide evidence of the ability and the willingness to administer “.travel” in a fair, unbiased manner, with full participation from the entire global travel community.

John K. Hawks, APR
Association of Retail Travel Agents
2692 Richmond Road, Suite 202
Lexington, KY 40509-1542 U.S.A.


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